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Do the math, and you’ll find that a million seconds is about 12 days. And a billion seconds? That’s about 32 years.

I found this quo­ta­tion from a New York Times essay more about eco­nom­ics than math—Who’s Afraid of Big Num­bers? In the past, I’ve lazi­ly won­dered what a mil­lion dol­lars in pen­nies would weigh or could I fit a mil­lion dol­lars in one-dol­lar bills in my garage. With recent head­lines about fed­er­al bud­gets in the tril­lions these days, I want­ed to expand these absurd­ly abstract val­ues in an attempt to visu­al­ize their scale.

A thou­sand sec­onds would be almost 17 min­utes, while a tril­lion sec­onds would take over 31,000 years. The New York Times also ref­er­enced these fig­ures from an opin­ion piece about the [Unit­ed States] nation­al debt ceil­ing, Just How Long Is a Tril­lion Sec­onds by Dorothy C. Mor­rell, back in 1986.

My next ref­er­en­tial thought is the infa­mous film by Charles and Ray Eames, Pow­ers of Ten™ (1977), as well as Josh Worth’s super­cool visu­al­iza­tion of our solar sys­tem. I’m fair­ly com­fort­able and con­fi­dent in know­ing how long a foot or an inch is or even six of them. We can thank the Inter­na­tion­al Orga­ni­za­tion for Stan­dard­iza­tion, as well as those who use them, for that. But, six­ty or six-hun­dred feet or inch­es and I am break­ing out the cal­cu­la­tor or ask­ing a search engine.


Alright, because I’m try­ing to be a bet­ter per­son and work on my ADHD-fueled pro­cras­ti­nat­ing, I went ahead and cal­cu­lat­ed that a mil­lion pen­nies would weigh over 551,155 pounds or 250 met­ric tons. Then I came across this page and deduced one mil­lion one-dol­lar bills would eas­i­ly fit in the garage.

$100M in $100 notes (or $1M in $1 bills) | Illus­tra­tion by Page​Tu​tor​.com


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